Thieves scam Hong Kong shops by paying with big note, getting it back and fleeing with change, goods

Police say three Cantonese speakers distract cashiers when they are busy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 6:44pm

A gang of thieves posing as shoppers scammed several stores by handing over a large note and then getting it back with change and fleeing with the goods, police said on Monday.

In the first week of this year, at least four shops, including a bookstore and a clothing chain, fell victim to the gang in Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O. Each lost hundreds of dollars in change and goods, according to one police source.

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The source said three middle-aged men usually struck when staff members were busy.

The latest case happened when three men posing as shoppers made purchases in a clothing store in the PopCorn shopping centre on Tong Yin Street, Tseung Kwan O on Friday last week.

One of them purchased goods worth HK$60 and paid with a HK$500 note to get change, while the other two bought goods worth HK$120 and paid with a HK$1,000 bill. Police said they approached the cashier at the same time.

“They made purchases with the big notes to get change and then claimed they had smaller bills and got back the big notes to make staff believe they had paid with big notes during a mix-up,” the source said.

The three men left the store after staff handed over HK$1,300 in change and goods worth HK$180.

The case came to light hours later when staff did a stock take and then checked closed circuit television footage, according to the source.

The three scammers are thought to be aged between 35 and 45 and are about 1.65m to 1.75m tall and of medium build, according to police.

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In a separate case, three men handed over a HK$500 note to buy candy worth tens of dollars to get change in a shop. They fled with more than HK$400 in change along with candy.

All the swindlers are Cantonese speakers, but some have mainland Chinese accents, according to another source.

He believed the same gang was responsible for the four cases .

He said officers were investigating whether shops in other districts also fell victim to the gang.

Police are treating the four cases as “obtaining property by deception”. No arrests have been made.

Detectives from Kwun Tong police station are poring over closed circuit television footage in an effort to identify the scammers.

Police figures show reports of deception dropped by 26 per cent to 6,044 in the first 10 months of last year from 8,191 in the same period in 2015.